Monday, April 26, 2010

Thoughts from Natty

On one of my forays into the play room today I noticed Natty was sitting and staring off into space (which is unusual for her). Then she looked up at me and said, "Mom, do you ever get the feeling that all this is Real?"
After some heming and hawing, I asked what she meant.
"I mean... it's not like we're in a movie or anything like that."
"Well, yes," I said, "I know that feeling."
Bit of a pause.
"It's a very strong feeling."

Sunday, April 25, 2010


It was Wednesday of Natty's Spring Break. Monday we all did yard work. Tuesday I went to work and Murray did yard work and now we were looking at another day of yard work. All fun in a home-ownership bliss sort of way. But come on! Murray's first vacation since last July and we're not even going to the beach? Let's go to the beach, Buttners!

Off we went, stopping for lunch at Zips Diner on the way. We went to a nature preserve beach with a lovely bluff walk. Murray, of course, went for a swim (Brr!!!)

Natty found great shells - She loves collecting shells so much she even went in the water to get some. (And after her teeth stopped chattering she tried to lure me in, "It's great Mom! Yeah, it's hot! You'll love it!")

On the way back to the car we started talking about staying down on the coast one night. Even though we hadn't packed for an overnighter, being a typical mom I had packed both kids a full change of clothes and various other sundries. So, no reason not to.

But why stop there? (Egging each other on) why not take a ferry somewhere? We love ferries. They're cool! We popped out our handy-dandy iPhones and started googling.

The timeline at this point is 4:30 pm. We're near New London, where possibly a ferry departs to Block Island in the summer, but is it running in April? Don't think so, but it's difficult to ascertain. We'll drive down to the dock just to make sure.

By the time we get there I'm assuming we've talked ourselves away from the cliff. We don't have any stuff, the ferry to Block Island isn't running, it's late, etc. However, there is a ferry leaving as we drive up. The signs say it's a Long Island ferry - and, when we buy our tickets, the ticket guys confirm that's where we're headed. Awesome! Crazy! North Fork of Long Island, here we come.

This ferry ride was super fun because Murray grew up sailing the Seguin on these waters so he was pointing out landmarks and getting all nostalgic.

But it's now past 5 pm and Sam's self determined bed time is 6:30 pm. Best find a place to stay the night. Both of us spend a lot of the ferry trip googling madly like iPhone geeks, looking for a B&B. After disembarking (at 6 ish - Sam's starting to get grumpy) we start making calls. Turns out there are lots of lovely B&B's in the North Fork wine country. Fewer that are open on a weeknight in April. Fewer still who want to guests arriving, oh, NOW. And none that are interested in hosting children. I'm beginning to imagine spending the night in the car with the kids - oh, the pain, the misery!

We stop at a roadside motel and I run in to enquire about a room. The lobby smells funny, but the lady is super nice and when I balk because they don't have a crib, she calls another hotel that might have one. They are happy to oblige, and we gratefully drive over. It's nice but a little odd: in the clapboard cutesy New England town of Greenport, it's all modern Ikea. Guess they figured people would appreciate a change. They were very accommodating (we might have been the only guests that night) with a cot for Natty and a crib for Sam and as Murray went to get takeout and some wine Natty and I happily settled Sam down with Lambie at 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, Sam was over-tired, not in his own bed and couldn't get over having all of us in the room with him. It was a long 2 hrs before he finally fell asleep and by that time we had too. (I couldn't get upset - he has a lot of misbehaving to do before he averages a normal kid's fussiness).

The next day after a leisurely morning (to facilitate at least one good nap for Sam) we "walked on" another ferry to a small island, rented bikes and rode around. Found a great beach for Natty's shell obsession, aptly named Shell Beach.

Sam is funny - Natty stripped right down to get into the water but Sam won't touch it. We tried to get some pictures of his "helicopter" move; if you lift him up and try to have him stand at the edge of the water, he curls his legs up sideways and refuses to put them down - hilarious! But he got very upset so we stopped torturing him for a photo and let him crawl on the mini-dock. He liked that.

Here we are biking. Natty has a competitive streak - she likes her bike to win. One strategy she uses is distraction, yelling out, "Look at that beautiful flower!" or some such thing, on the theory that her opponent will slow down to gape and her bike will pull ahead. On this island, she quickly figured out the houses were worth looking at and would yell, "Look at that lovely property!" Budding real estate agent?
One observation we had was that the population seemed to be made up of either nice second homes with their affluent owners or hispanic immigrants. I think 90% of the servers we had were Spanish-speakers and so when I spotted a tiny "Cocina Hispanico" down a side street across from our hotel, we had to try it. We tumbled in at 5:30 - too early for most people to be thinking of dinner, but we wanted to try to eat together before Sam went down. The menu (written on a chalkboard) was small and all in Spanish. But, lo and behold, they had pupusas! Pupusas are El Salvadorean. I first had them in San Salvador in 1992 and still remember eating them there; they were that good. They are essentially a stuffed corn tortilla - the sum is way greater than the parts.

I have only had pupusas once since then, at a resturant in Baltimore. They were heavy and greasy and left me thinking I had mis-remembered my meal in El Salvador. Either that or they were selling lame pupusas to the gringa because she wouldn't know the difference. So here was my chance to find out if my memory of deliciousness was true!

We gave our orders to the waitress (thank goodness Murray still speaks Spanish since I come up with the most ludicrous slurry of Spanish and French now when I try to speak Spanish) and waited happily. Sam, unfortunately, didn't catch the import of the meal and let us know he was tired. Tired. TIRED.
I caught the hint and took the wailing baby to the hotel. Where he finally fell asleep, but not without a fight.

Then there was a quiet knock on the door and Natty and Mur were dropping off my pupusas and some fried chicken. I sat down, opened my takeout container and took a bite.
Hola, amigos! It was good. I devoured all three I'd ordered and contemplated leaving Sam to go get more (Mur and Natty were out finding dessert) but restrained myself. Pupusas are served with curtida - a vinegary coleslaw type relish - which I love too and had forgotten about. The combination of hot corn tortilla, melted cheese and beans with the curtida is deeply satisfying. And there was a extra tortilla to go with the fried chicken. I do love a good corn tortilla. Not those thin, mealy ones you buy in the supermarket, but a thick, warm, chewy, fresh one. It's a whole different food. That was the best meal of the trip.

The next morning we decided we had to hit a vineyard or 2 and get some wine. We were a little early on the road, so we drove around sightseeing and went for a hike. We like walking in the woods - even Sam.

Then we did the wine tasting thing (I was tipsy by 11:30 a.m.!) and headed back for the ferry with a stop at a Greek restaurant for take-out to eat on the ferry. We again arrived just as the ferry was loading, got wedged in by the crew (seriously - I could barely get in and out we were so tight) had another amazing meal (mmmm, gyros! baklava! Greek salad! Boy, those Greeks don't skimp on the oil and vinegar) and a beautiful ride back to CT.

And that was it. Our madcap adventure. I wore the same clothes for 3 days. But even though we bought more diapers for Sam we didn't end up using them (Turns out I have diapers stashed everywhere - in my purse, in the car....Now I have to replenish my hiding places). We had such a great time. It was good for my soul because I was feeling too settled and locked in. The yard work will always be there. In fact, that's what Murray worked on today, while Natty and I went to back to back birthday parties. Life goes on. But it was fun to sidestep it for a few days.